Alsym wants to ‘light up homes for a billion people’ with its new battery

Lithium-ion batteries have transformed the global economy, making everything from smartphones and laptops to electric vehicles, e-bikes and much more possible. But even as costs have fallen precipitously over the past decade, they remain too expensive to electrify all the ways humans need to store energy.

With the advent of cheap solar power, generating electricity has never been easier or cheaper. But solar panels are useless when the sun goes down. For solar energy to live up to its potential, there must be an affordable way to store that energy.

The lack of affordable energy storage is holding back development in many countries. Although more people than ever have access to electricity, some 3.5 billion people still cannot get electricity reliably and around 760 million have no electricity at all.

“You have a whole generation that can’t study, a whole generation without industrial support, not even small-scale or even micro-businesses,” Mukesh Chatter, co-founder and CEO of Alsym Energy, told TechCrunch.

That’s what inspired Chatter, a serial entrepreneur, and his co-founders to create Massachusetts-based Alsym. “The original goal was to light up the homes of a billion people around the world who do not have access to electricity and are forced to live the lives of 19th century and are condemned to poverty. We wanted to break this cycle.

Chatter has spent the last nine years working with its technical co-founders Nikhil Koratkar, Rahul Mukherjee and Kripa Varanasi to develop low-cost, non-flammable battery chemistry. .Now they think they have it.

He won’t divulge details, but says one of the electrodes is manganese oxide, an abundant mineral already produced in large quantities. The electrolyte is water-based, which is a departure from the flammable organic solvents used in lithium-ion batteries. Additionally, both electrode materials “will not inherently allow dendrites to form,” he said, referring to spiky crystals that can form on lithium-ion electrodes and short circuit a cell.

The result is a battery that is less energy dense at the cell level than leading lithium-ion chemistries, but competitive at the pack level. This is because the cells can be packed more tightly and require less safety equipment because they operate more safely at higher temperatures, Chatter said.

Alsym also claims its batteries will be cheaper than lithium-ion, thanks to less exotic materials and simpler packs. The startup is targeting around $50 per kilowatt hour for its cells, significantly reducing lithium-ion cell costs, which are currently $89 per kilowatt hour.

Let’s be clear: Aslym has only produced samples so far, and its insistence on keeping its technology secret, which is understandable from a commercial perspective, makes it impossible to verify its effectiveness. Aslym’s first finished products should be available in 2025, Chatter says, at which point it will become clear whether they work or not.

Alsym is pursuing stationary storage as an initial market and plans to follow a design tailored to two-wheeled electric vehicles, popular in India, China and Southeast Asia. After that, another one will come out for plug-in hybrids. The company says it has already signed a deal with a major Indian automaker to supply batteries, although Chatter would not confirm which one.

On Wednesday, the company announced that it had raised a $78 million Series C round led by General Catalyst and Tata, the Indian conglomerate, with participation from Drads Capital, Thomvest and Thrive Capital.

Alsym plans to use the new funding to double the team from 50 to 100 people and build two production lines with a capacity of one megawatt hour each, to provide samples to customers. Ultimately, it will partner with existing battery manufacturers, since Alsym’s batteries can be produced using existing equipment. Chatter said the global wave of gigafactory construction is already leading to excess capacity that his company hopes to take advantage of.

Chatter is already targeting other markets, notably the steel industry. “Industrial applications are massive applications for stationary storage,” he said. “The world produces around 2 billion tonnes of steel, which generates 4 billion tonnes of CO.2. That’s more than all the passenger cars in the world combined. »


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